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Stories from the Kitchen: Meet Our Kitchen Apprentices

CeCe

CeCe joined the The Food Shift Kitchen apprenticeship because she decided it was high time to get more familiar with an actual kitchen. She had always loved to eat, yet even as a single mom she had never really learned to cook. She signed up for the apprenticeship on the recommendation of her case manager at the Alameda Point Collaborative. CeCe was a bit hesitant in the beginning, given she was starting from ground zero. However, CeCe quickly found that Chef Suzy taught cooking techniques in a relatable way, and she has steadily picked up kitchen skills.

CeCe has learned a LOT— how to make sauces, knife techniques, and the advantages of blanching vegetables to retain nutrients and color. Now she is so much better acquainted with vegetables! CeCe can now differentiate between a cucumber and a zucchini and has found a special appreciation for arugula, a totally new food experience for her. “I can make a vinaigrette from scratch now,” she beams.

Through the apprenticeship, CeCe is learning valuable skills that support her goal of working in a professional kitchen. It’s also her first real job. She loves what she’s doing and eating, even though she is still a bit shocked that all of the good food they prepare is meatless, and still delicious!

 

Mary

An outspoken, dynamic example of real-life resilience, Mary came to the Food Shift Kitchen apprenticeship to build domestic skills, which she used to lack. Even though she cycled through a variety of jobs, from accountant to housewife to nursing, and in addition endured a series of intense hardships, including her son’s murder, physical assault, drug abuse, separation from her children, and a vicious dog attack that left her unable to continue working, she never lost her desire to one day overcome her lack of basic kitchen know-how. 

Mary is still recuperating from her injuries, but she feels stable and supported with housing and programs at Alameda Point Collaborative, and The Food Shift Kitchen is her first job since the more troubled times. She used to say that she couldn’t eat food without meat, but she now proclaims, “I have some new dishes to bring when we have a gathering. I’m going to fix you some healthy meals, without meat, and it’ll be delicious. You’ll love it.”

She feels changes in her body that she enjoys. She feels less tired and can tell from how her clothing fits that she’s dropping inches, too. “The Food Shift program has been overall positive for me,” she says decisively. Her favorite dish to cook? Just wait until you try her meatless lasagna. “I’m using my skills at home—That’s why I came here!” she exclaims.

 

Da’jah

Da’jah was admittedly neutral about food before her kitchen apprenticeship, even though her mother graduated from The Food Shift Kitchen and introduced some “weird” dinner options at home. Once Da’jah got in the kitchen however, the scientific processes and camaraderie of the kitchen quickly lured Da’jah into a newfound appreciation for the wonders of food. She realized the magical power of seeds, the amazing properties of sauerkraut, the versatility of blanching vegetables, and the importance of food justice and resource conservation.

She absorbed so much knowledge through the joy of hands-on learning, and was impressed with how much she was exposed to in mere weeks. The experience revealed to her the rewards of being willing to step outside her comfort zone and try new things. A recent challenge she took on was baking a dessert from scratch for the first time. “After our family meal, people were talking about how they really enjoyed it. That’s amazing. I never thought I could really do something like that,” she shared incredulously.

She has also been amazed at how much good, healthy food can be created from produce that would have otherwise gone to waste. “I’m really into food now,” she states matter-of-factly. That new affinity for food and cooking has led the recent high school grad to think seriously about a future goal of getting a job in a kitchen. 


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